Kwakiutl - Marriage and Family

Marriage. Preferred spouses were from other similarly ranked numayms. High-ranking, wealthy individuals might engage in polygynous unions. Divorce was effected by return of property equivalent to those gifts exchanged by families at the time of marriage. For several generations, marriage practices have conformed to those prescribed by the Anglican church and Canadian law.

Domestic Unit. Independent households, centering on a nuclear or polygynous composite family but including Otherwise unattached relatives and slaves, were fundamental units of production and consumption. They shared a single large dwelling with three to five or more other such units, forming an extended household usually linked by a core of patrilineally related male heads. For much of the year, there was little activity in which these larger domestic units collectively engaged, but seasonally they cooperated in some hunting and fishing activities and shared food surplus to any independent household's needs. The typical domestic unit is now the Nuclear family-centered household.

Inheritance. Most personal effects closely identified with an individual were burned at death. More valuable kinds of property (houses, coppers, ceremonial regalia, crests, dances, privileges, and titles) were transferred to heirs during one's lifetime. The usual path of inheritance and succession was defined by a rule of primogeniture with no distinction made between a male or female heir. If there was no child, property seems rightfully to have gone to the eldest offspring of the next oldest sibling, although that next oldest sibling might assert a claim. Many items could be passed on only within the numaym; others (especially titles, dances, coppers) that had been received from in-laws could be conveyed to other inlaws. Positions as functionaries or performers in the winter ceremonies were patrilineally transmitted.

Socialization. Children were raised with comparatively few restrictions until puberty, after which a girl was expected to become skilled at basket making and other women's work. Girls were instructed by older female members of the Household. Boys learned appropriate skills from their fathers. Children continue to be raised in a setting of affection and permissiveness with the major responsibility for guidance falling on the parents, especially the mother. In later childhood, peer group influences predominate. Gender stereotyping begins early but becomes particularly evident during adolescence. Missionary schools on many reserves and a Government residential school at Alert Bay were the main sources of instruction until the 1950s, after which time these were gradually replaced by secular instruction in provincial schools serving the region's Indian and non-Indian communities. Some in small remote villages rely on the province's correspondence program. Postsecondary enrollment has increased with recent establishment of nearby branch college campuses.

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